Violence in West Papua a ‘real concern’ to Attorney-General

Commonwealth Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, has said Australia’s recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua would not stop the Government from registering concern about human rights violations. Whilst in Indonesia for a series of meetings with her Indonesian counterparts on issues of law and justice, Ms Roxon, has told the ABC that Australia is firmly committed to making sure that any abuses or alleged abuses by security forces in Papua are properly investigated and punished. Ms Roxon said Australia recognised Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua, but that would not stop the Government from registering concern.

At the beginning of the AG's trip, the Human Rights Law Centre issued the media release below calling on the Australian Government to review its support of Indonesia’s elite military unit, Detachment 88, and to push for investigations into the unit’s alleged involvement in human rights abuses.

Earlier this month during a senate budget estimates hearing, Australian Federal Police commissioner Tony Negus said Indonesia was well aware of Australian concerns about the activities of security forces in West Papua.

Commonwealth Attorney-General should push for inquiry into human rights abuses while in Indonesia

23 October 2012

The Commonwealth Attorney-General should push for a full, independent and public investigation into the alleged involvement of an Indonesian counter-terrorism unit in human rights abuses in West Papua, according to a leading human rights advocacy organisation.

Nicola Roxon is in Indonesia this week for a series of meetings with her Indonesian counterparts on issues of law and justice.

Ms Roxon’s visit comes just a month after ABC’s 7.30 program aired evidence that an Indonesian counter-terrorism unit, which receives extensive training and support from the Australian Federal Police, has been involved in torture and extra-judicial killings in West Papua. The evidence included interviews with victims and witnesses, together with video of alleged incidents of abuse by the unit, known as Detachment 88.

“The Attorney-General should advise her Indonesian counterparts that Australia will suspend support for Detachment 88 pending a full, independent and public investigation into the alleged involvement of its members in recent human rights abuses in West Papua,” said Phil Lynch, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre.

In 2008, the US cut off assistance to Detachment 88 due to human rights concerns.

Previous allegations of torture and ill-treatment perpetrated by members of Detachment 88 – together with Indonesia's special forces, known as Kopassus – have been verified by Human Rights Watch and brought to the attention of the Australian Government.

“While Indonesia bears primary responsibility for protecting and ensuring respect for human rights within its provinces, Australia's human rights obligations do not end at our borders,” said Mr Lynch.

“Australia has a legal and moral duty to ensure that our military and security cooperation with Indonesia does not in any way aid, assist or otherwise support operations which may lead to human rights violations,” he said.

According to the Human Rights Law Centre, as part of our commitment to human rights and the rule of law, Australia should develop a vetting procedure to ensure that units and members of military and security forces accused of human rights violations are precluded from receiving Australian support until those allegations are fully investigated and perpetrators held to account.

“Ms Roxon should commit to making human rights safeguards central to all policies and practices relating to Australia's police and security cooperation with Indonesia,” said Mr Lynch.

“She should also commit to ensuring that human rights education is a significant and essential component of any training provided to Indonesian units and forces.”

Mr Lynch said that, far from “meddling” in Indonesia affairs, such an approach would be consistent with Australia’s responsibility to show principled leadership and act as a force for peace, security and stability in the region.